The No Annual Fee American Card May Now Be The Best – And Make Sense To Spend On

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The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card offers 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in purchases within the first three months after account opening. That’s not a huge up front bonus, but it’s a no annual fee card that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

For elite AAdvantage members, I think changes to how status is earned at American Airlines beginning next year mean that this card makes more sense than ever. It makes more sense than the main consumer AAdvantage card with its $99 annual fee. And it finally makes sense to spend on the card, too.

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores and 1 full mile per dollar everywhere else. Gone are the days where no annual fee cobrands earn just half a mile per dollar, and this even has strong earn for grocery spend.

There are two basic contentions,

  1. Loyalty points mean spend on an American card matters for those with elite status. You earn one loyalty point per dollar spent on a cobrand credit card, and loyalty points are how status is earned. Loyalty points also matter for upgrade priority.

  2. Elite frequent flyers have no good reason to go for the primary consumer card with its annual fee, since the benefits (free checked bags, earlier boarding) duplicate elite benefits.

That means the card that makes the most sense to carry is either,

  • The Citi Executive card if you want to bundle buying Admirals Club access
  • The MileUp card because you’ll earn loyalty points for your spend without an annual fee at all

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card gives you mileage-earning for you card spend without the annual fee. And the benefits on the more expensive mass consumer card don’t really accrue to an elite in a meaningful way anyway. So why spend the annual fee? Go with MileUp for Loyalty Points earning.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. 1) AA Mileup has always been a strong card given you can apply for the card outright, and get a 50K Citi bank account signup bonus as well

    2) Consumer card makes sense for those that won’t get AA status, but fly with family and check bags (a very big population)

    3) AA will be a secondary program for me relative to Delta. It should be pretty easy to get Platinum through spending on the Citi Executive Card plus some occasional Mileup spending (I have all three of these cards). The issue is that 2x grocery (MIleup), 2x restaurant (Consumer) and 2x AA (any of these cards) pale in comparison to earnings on the Amex Platinum / Gold combo. Then in 2023/2024 it may may sense to downgrade the Citi Executive if I don’t need the Club access

  2. Brodie

    1) 10K sign up bonus associated with the card
    2) 6 months later, get a letter from Citibank that gives you a 50K sign up bonus for opening up a new Citi Priority checking account associated with that card

    So 60K total. Repeat with the two other cards

    The bank account offers were pre pandemic, so not sure if they are back

  3. It has an annual fee but the Barclays Aviator Silver might marginally win out if you’re putting a lot of spend on it: “Earn 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $20,000 on purchases, another 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $40,000 on purchases, and another 5,000 Bonus Loyalty Points if you spend $50,000 or more on purchases.”

  4. I use this for most of my grocery spend.
    2 AA miles = 3.5% for me, which is a good
    return for that category

  5. Also, if you have the Citi Miles Ahead Savings account, and keep a minimum of $10,000 balance on that, you get 25% bonus on ALL earned AA miles from your Mile Up card spending.

  6. The advantage of the consumer card with benefits is AUs if they don’t travel with you. Otherwise, you are right.

  7. Does this car provide priority boarding and free checked bag for the cardholder and one or more people traveling with them?

  8. The Platinum Select AA card offers 2x on gas. For some folks like me that spend a lot on gas it pays off more than the Mileup no fee card. I can put groceries on other non-AA cards for better value.

  9. I have a feeling that the Aviator silver is going to have to improve on 1x toward loyalty points in future years. The added spending thresholds for 2022 obviously were a stop gap but I just don’t see where they are going to be able to compete at a $200/annual fee price point without 1.5x going forward (or keeping the tiered earning in future years) unless they add other benefits. The AA Executive card gets lounge access at least. With the elimination of EQDs and EQSs, the value proposition of the silver evaporates if they don’t do something.

  10. I’ve been mulling over what AAdvantage card to get, so this is very timely. I’ve always earned Platinum the “old-fashioned” way, and while I recognize that under the new regime it will be easier for those who already have status to re-up than for noobs to get there for the first time, I’m still going to need to combine cc spend with my AA flying. One question – is there any good reason to wait a bit longer to make that decision ? Will the AA card landscape likely get more competitive in the coming weeks ? Couldn’t there be a lot of AAdvantage members out there like me who haven’t previously needed AA cards but, starting 1/1/22 will be heavily incentivized to get on board (which seems to be exactly what AA was trying to accomplish with this program shift …) ?

  11. Thanks Gary! I used your referral link and was approved. I have the red Barclays card but I don’t need the checked bags or priority boarding so this is awesome!

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